By Larry Ellis
Pilot staff writer
Fish report for the week of May 30 June 5
Lower Rogue closes to the retention of wild Chinook until July 12
This is hardly earth-shattering news, but an emergency closure has been enacted prohibiting the harvest of wild Chinook from the lower Rogue upstream to Elephant Rock. The closure, already in effect, will remain that way through July 11. Starting July 12, wild fish may be retained.
The closure was set to open on June 1, but as of May 27, only 2,199 spring Chinook had crossed Gold Ray Dam. As a result of extremely low fish counts, even lower than last year, ODFW brought about the extended closure in order to protect the wild stock.
Cole Rivers hatchery releases 1.6 million spring Chinook smolts into the Rogue every year, 1,622,000 fish to be exact. The news release didn't say anything about keeping hatchery-raised fish, so if you catch a hatchery fish you may still retain it.
UPDATE! At the last minute late Friday, a rush of springers crossed over Gold Ray Dam. As of May 31, a total of 3,590 springers crossed over Gold Ray, and on June 1, the count was up to 3,824. That's 1,625 springers crossing the dam in four days. Are these fish late? Could this have an effect on reversing the closure?
"That's definitely a good sign and we're going to continue monitoring those numbers," says Dan Van Dyke, District biologist for the Rogue Watershed. "But we're not considering reversing our decision at this time."
Fishing for rockfish this week has again been totally off the chart, with limits being the rule rather than the exception.
There are obviously a lot of bottom fish out there. It seems that there has been a lot less fishing pressure on them because of the cost of fuel. Less fishing pressure means they usually bite a lot better when you fish them the next time.
There have still been lots of large cabezon being caught, in addition to some exotic rockfish species like China cod, vermilion and quillbacks.
Sportfishermen have also been coming to the cleaning station with more limits of lingcod than usual.
Throw your favorite lure, jig or bait at 'em. They've been hitting everything but the kitchen sink. My favorite stand-by is still a leadfish. With only six-fish rockfish and two-fish lingcod limits, it's a lot more fun to single-fish for them.
As a rule, a leadfish will also catch larger rockfish. If you ever hook a large vermilion, you'll know what a shoulder-shaker is all about. Nothing turns me on more than watching that red color come into view, then reaching down and firmly grabbing it by the lower lip.
By the way, if you want to take the best photos, take them immediately after the fish have been caught, and before you bleed them. Whether it's a lingcod, a rockfish or a cabbie, the fins stick out robustly and the colors are more vibrant.
So how do we stand as far as reaching the rockfish quotas compared to last year?
"At the public meetings we were looking at data through March and we were tracking a little slower than last year," says Don Bodenmiller, Marine Recreational Fisheries biologist for ODFW. "But April was a little quicker than last year, so overall in April we were a little bit ahead."
Bodenmiller commented that ODFW also looked at the first few weeks of angler bottomfishing effort in May, and that May was tracking a little lower than last year. So the Sport Advisory Committee did not make any immediate recommendations other than to keep an eye on angler effort for the rest of the month.
A very exciting
John Holloway and Wayne Butler have made a proposal to the Pacific Fisheries Management Council to get an experimental fishing permit where 10 boats could fish in the closed rockfish area outside the 40-fathom curve, to fish for a mid-water rockfish species called a yellowtail rockfish (Sebastes flavidus).
Yellowtail rockfish are considered to be very abundant and have a healthy status. They will be fishing with gear that is intended to avoid yelloweye rockfish. The gear looks like standard shrimp-fly rockfishing rigs, with the exception that the line above the sinker would be between 30 and 50 feet before you get to the first hook.
"I'm excited about it," remarked Bodenmiller. "I think it holds some real promise if we can work out the bugs and do the research to show that it works."
Bodenmiller says that ODFW did some previous long-leader work in the halibut grounds in order to stay away from yelloweye rockfish, but the 15-foot droppers were just too short.
Holloway and Butler believe they can use longer drop sinkers and specifically target pelagic rockfish species like yellowtail rockfish or even widow rockfish.
The proposal was received before the PFMC's deadline. The final decision will not be made until November 2008, and the experiment would be implemented by 2009.
So what could Holloway's and Butler's proposal mean for the fishing industry? First and foremost, it could help bring back the tourism industry, once again increasing the livelihood of sport boat operators.
Furthermore, there is also a possibility that the rockfish limits for these particular species could go up to 10 or even 15 fish, because of their healthy status, making a deep-sea bottomfishing trip once again worthwhile.
A guy could conceivably target lingcod inside 40 fathoms, then head out to the yellowtail and widow rockfish grounds and bring back a gunnysack full of the bottom-grabbers. In other words, the good old days of rockfishing could be coming back.
Surfperch are abundant at the Brookings Harbor fillet station
You just can't shake this incredible surfperch bite. Right after high tide, you can sit by the cleaning station and within two hours, here comes the surfperch.
On Thursday four people brought in limits of redtail and striped surfperch. The fishing is just flat-out phenomenal for the silver slabs.
Use small pieces of raw shrimp for bait, or baitshrimp found at the local tackle stores. These fish are running close to 2 pounds each and give a pretty healthy fillet from each side.
The limit is 15 surfperch of any variety in aggregate and there is no size limit.